A new poll suggests that video footage can have a powerful effect on how the public thinks about police shootings and killings.
A new Bloomberg Politics poll found 25 percent of white Americans disagree with the grand jury's decision not to indict Darren Wilson in the shooting death of Michael Brown. But a majority — 52 percent — disagree with a separate grand jury's decision to not indict the New York City police officer who killed Eric Garner. About nine in 10 black Americans disagree with both decisions.
One of the major differences between the two cases is that Garner's death was filmed, leaving much less of the event open to interpretation. The Brown shooting in Ferguson, Missouri, wasn't caught on camera, so what's known about the shooting is largely based on conflicting eyewitness testimony.
The difference in public opinion shows why police-worn body cameras could still serve a public good even if grand juries sided with police in both the Brown and Garner cases. Video footage may not always force a police officer to stand trial for his actions, but it can shape public opinion and raise awareness about serious flaws in the criminal justice system.